Plenty of people wanted to murder the shiftless, good-for-nothing Wally Carter. His rich wife, Ermyntrude, was tired of giving him money that he only drank or gambled away. Ermyntrude’s daughter, Vicky, thought her mother would be happier with another man. The slick “Prince” Alexis Varasashvili, had his eye on Ermyntrude’s fortune. And several other characters had equally strong movies for wanting Wally out of the way. But when he actually is shot, it seems that no one could possibly have fired the gun without being immediately discovered. As suspicion rests on each of the characters in turn, it’s up to Scotland Yard’s Inspector Hemingway to discover the truth. Along the way, a sordid scandal comes to light, a crooked business deal is unearthed, and romances end and begin.
I’m glad I chose this book to kick off my 2016 reading, since it contains both an ingenious mystery plot and a wonderful assortment of classic Heyer characters. I loved the histrionic Ermyntrude, who is certainly vulgar but also extremely kind-hearted. And Vicky, who delights in playing a variety of different roles (such as Sports Girl and Dutiful Daughter), annoyed me at first, but eventually I began to enjoy her antics in spite of myself. The main characters are so well-drawn that the mystery is a bit sidelined, but I do think the solution is very clever. I guessed the murderer but not the “how” or the “why,” although Heyer plants a few clues throughout the novel. The romances are a bit undercooked, especially the one involving Wally’s ward, Mary Cliffe. I don’t know whether I’d consider it one of my favorite Heyer mysteries, but it was still a fun read and a great start to the year!